HC Deb 11 March 1947 vol 434 cc1105-7
5. Miss Bacon

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he will make a state- ment upon the new arrangements to be made to expedite the procedure for dealing with new claims for old age pensions.

4. Mr. Erroll

asked the Minister of National Insurance what new scheme he has envolved for handling applications and claims for old-age pensions.

Mr. J. Griffiths

As I have indicated to the House on more than one occasion, the difficulties created for my Department by the new conditions for the award and payment of contributory old age pensions arise largely from the fact that we have not yet the local organisation, which we intend to create, for the purposes of the new Insurance Scheme as a whole. In the absence of such an organisation, I have obtained valuable help from the local offices of the Assistance Board in various directions, and I am now extending these arrangements to include the handling of new claims.

Beginning on 17th March, new claims for contributory pension will be lodged, not at the central offices of the Ministry, but at the local office of the Assistance Board. The claim form will be handed out at the post office, with a prepaid envelope addressed to the local area office. On receipt of a claim, the board's officer will immediately examine it to see that it is properly completed, and check any supporting documents, such as birth certificates; he will then send the claim to the Ministry for decision. These measures will not only reduce the time taken to clear the claim, but will also eliminate much correspondence.

The new arrangements will make for the greater convenience of claimants, who will be able to obtain the help of the board's local office in completing the form, if they so desire, and afterwards, will have the advantage of local contact on any questions of difficulty which arise during the investigation of the claim. The board's, officers will be acting throughout, in relation to contributory pension claims, as my agents.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what increase of staff this new system will involve, and what additional figure of civil servants will be employed?

Mr. Griffiths

None, Sir. The reason why I am now able to enter into this arrangement is because the payment of the new standard pension of 42s. a week has lifted a big load of supplementary pensions from the Board, and has released people for this work.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

While most of us appreciate that the difficulties and delays that occurred were the inevitable consequence of my right hon. Friend's endeavour to bring the paying of the higher pensions into operation in advance of the general scheme, may I ask, on the statement which he has just made, whether, when it seems to the local organisation that a prima facie case has been made out, it will be possible to authorise provisional payment of pensions, pending confirmation of the application?

Mr. Griffiths

That is one of the things which I am suggesting, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that it raises some difficulty. However, if it is possible, practicable, and within the terms of the Act, I will see whether it can be done.